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Mountain Films

From Women in European History

Bergfilmen ("Mountain Films") were a genre of films popular in Weimar Germany. Unlike the expressionist German films of the time, directed by greats such as F.W. Murnaw and Fritz Lang, Bergfilmen were shot on location, which generally meant in the mountains of Tyrol. [1] Indeed, the shots of nature were the main attraction of the film. To what extent these films had plots, they were simple stories, generally consisting of the struggle between the protagonist(s) and the mountain; furthermore, they feature a female character (played by Leni Riefenstahl) who alone was capable of climbing the most dangerous peaks, and who had a certain mystical air for possessing this ability. [2] The most important director of the genre was Dr. Arnold Fanck, commonly called the "father" of the style. Though no dramatist, he managed to compensate for this by employing highly innovative camera techniques, such as the use of high-contrast filmstock, back-lighting, low angles, and color filters in order to achieve the desired emotional impact; even more impressively, he took the primitive, bulky cameras of the day into actions they had never before experienced, such the ascents of mountains or descents (by the camera!) on skis. [3] His influence was cemented through the collection of cameramen he trained, the so-called, "Freiburg School," who would go on to further achievements in the films of Leni Riefenstahl. [4] This is not to say that the plots were altogether plain--on the contrary, they were Romanticist, idealistic, "antirationalist" works imbued with a sense of value for physical vigor and German nationalism. [5] In this regard, they played to the same sentiments as would the nascent National Socialist movement.


  1. Bach, Steven. Leni. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. (2007) pp. 35, 37
  2. http://www.history.ucsb.edu/faculty/marcuse/classes/33d/33dTexts/SontagFascinFascism75.htm "Fascinating Fascism." Sontag, Susan. Accessed June 3, 2009
  3. Bach, p. 37
  4. Bach, p. 37
  5. Bach, p. 36

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